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How to Eat Cake in Switzerland

One thing about Switzerland that really plays in its favor is the tasty food. Most famously cheese and chocolate. However, today I want to talk about a famous Swiss cake and the unwritten rules you have to follow in order to politely eat cake in Switzerland. I believe the cake eating rules are the same  also for chocolate, lemon or strawberry cake.

Swiss Carrot Cake - Michaela Schöllhorn  /
The cake I will talk about is named after the region of Switzerland I grew up in, the canton of Aargau  and is called the Argovian Carrot Cake ("Aargauer Rüeblitorte"). I am not sure why the cake originated in this area but some people claim it was because carrots were and are planted and harvested in great amounts in that region. Whatever its origins, the carrot cake is now an extremely popular cake in Switzerland as can be seen in the fact that little decorative (but also edible and quite tasty) marzipan carrots that can be bought in every super market of the country. It is basically the Swiss standard marzipan figurine.

How to Make a Swiss Carrot Cake

Obviously I am not gonna talk about carrot cake without giving you a recipe for the classic Argovian Carrot Cake. Here it goes:

Ingredients needed:
5 eggs
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 1/4 cup of grated carrots
1 1/2 cup of ground almonds
3/4 cup of flour
1 lemon
1 table spoon baking powder
2 cups of confectioners sugar
2 table spoons of lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease and flour 9x13 inch pan.
2. Separate egg whites from the egg yolks and mix the yolks with the sugar. Stir until foamy.
3. Add the carrots and almonds and the juice of 1 lemon.
4. Mix flour and baking powder and add to the mixture.
5. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat them until they are stiff.
6. Pour mixture into the pan and bake 50 minutes.
After the cake has cooled down:
Mix the confectioners sugar with lemon juice and spread the icing on top of the cake. Decorate with marzipan carrots if available.

How to Eat Cake in Switzerland

Now that you know how to bake the cake, lets talk about how to eat cake in Switzerland. Remember that the rule you are about to learn applies to the eating of all kinds of cakes.

Imagine a birthday party. The host made this really amazing chocolate cake and everyone enjoys a piece of it. (Un)Fortunately, after everyone had their share a single piece of this delicious cake is left over. This can turn into a tricky situation. In other cultures people would simply cut the remaining piece into several smaller pieces in order to share with everyone or have a small contest to decide who should get the treat. The Swiss decide who gets the cake according to the following procedure: Whoever wishes to eat the last piece must politely ask EVERYONE at the table if they would like to have the last piece. Only if everyone declines, he or she may actually put it on their plate and eat it.

Obviously everyone who is being asked knows that the person who is asking really wants to piece and is simply going through the routine of offering it to everyone else out of politeness. Thus, their polite refusal is almost guaranteed. In the many times I have observed (and participated) in this behavior, I have very rarely seen anyone accept the last piece of cake if it was offered to them. Amongst good friends and family you sometimes accept it to spite the other person but only because the rules of formal social behavior seem to apply less in close relationships.

For the full Swiss experience I recommend you bake a carrot cake, invite some friends over for a party/dinner/coffee and practice the polite offering and refusal. You will be ready to try it with the Swiss!

wrw  /



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